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Democrats Protest Budget, No Mill Rate to be Set by Deadline

The town will not have a mill rate set by the third Monday of May, as required by town charter, for the first time ever after Democrats refused to vote to pass it.

For the first time in the history of Southington, the town will not have a mill rate by the charter-set deadline on the third Monday in May.

Democrats on the Board of Finance protested the approved 2012-13 budget on Wednesday evening by refusing to set the mill rate associated with it, leaving the town without a mill rate for the upcoming fiscal year.

After a heated debate over the budget process, Sandra Feld and Anthony Casale Jr. said they could not support the 27.48 mills associated with the approved budget and voted against setting the rate, leading the motion to fail and leaving the town without a tax rate for the first time ever.

“This is extremely disappointing and it’s something that shouldn’t be happening,” said Vice-Chairman Joseph Labieniec. “Section 730 of the town charter is very clear on duties of the Board of Finance. This is not a time to debate the budget, but rather a time to set the taxation rate based solely on the mathematics behind the budget passed.”

The political battle Wednesday night in the Council Chambers at began after Feld and Casale spoke out for the second time regarding a budget process that they called “unfair” and “without compromise,” both on a Board of Finance level and Town Council level.

Both were emotional and angry as they criticized chairman John Leary and the Republicans for being unwilling to make sacrifices and supporting "frivolous and unnecessary spending" in a tough economic year rather than finding ways to give more back to the taxpayers of Southington.

“This year’s budget process was the most disgraceful one I’ve ever witnessed,” Feld said. “If going to rubber stamp the managements proposals, why even bother having Board of Finance meetings? The Republicans on both Board of Finance and Town Council have rubber stamped it despite our constant objections.”

Labieniec and board member Wayne Stanforth each defended the process, saying the board held 12 hours of workshops and members spent countless time reviewing items.

Labieniec said there was compromise – a comment that Casale questioned – and that no one was left with the budget they wanted, but that the town has maintained services and is preparing for the future, all while lowering government spending from where it is right now.

But Feld and Casale said they would not support the proposed mill rate because they did not support the budget that it was based upon.

The setting of the mill rate is a formal process that requires the board use the approved budget to set taxes for the town to levy, effective July 1. Under town charter, the board is considered derelict in its responsibilities by not setting the mill rate by this time and will now be in violation of town charter, Labieniec explained.

The approved budget of $129.7 million cannot be altered at this time and was considered passed when it was passed . The vote on a mill rate is separate from the rest of the budget process.

The same budget, with only one $195,000 line item change, had been .

The board voted 3-2 in favor of passing the mill rate, but four votes are required to gain the decisive majority necessary to pass the rate. Leary was absent due to work responsibilities.

“There are only two possibilities left for this, as the town needs to have a mill rate set for June 30 in order to prepare tax bills,” Garry Brumback said after consulting with the town attorney by phone Wednesday night.

“The board can either abdicate its responsibilities and send the matter to the town council or they can set a special meeting and take up the matter again at the earliest convenience,” he said. “If the matter is not settled in that next meeting, it will need to be forwarded along to the council.”

The most likely date for a special meeting at this point would be on May 29. Board members agreed to try and set a meeting when all six members could be present, but Stanforth questioned whether the matter should not be forwarded to the council after the Board of Finance failed in it’s responsibilities.

“This is a mathematical question, not a philosophical question. I feel like if we are not able to come to an agreement, we should allow the matter to be forwarded on. We have a responsibility and by not passing the mill rate, we have failed in this,” Stanforth said.

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John Leary May 18, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I agree with the remarks of “Southington Phoenix”, they are valid, factual and non political. The responsibility of the Board of Finance, after the budget is approved by the Town Council, is not to change the budget or protest the budget, but to fund the budget. The only 2 options are to fund it from an existing fund balance “Rainy Day Fund” and/or by levying taxes on property. During the 11.5 hours of workshop meetings the use of fund balance was fully discussed and illustrated on a flip chart. So that option was fully covered. Members felt that having a healthy reserve fund was important to Southington. The Town Council approved the budget, by voting, according to the process. The mill rate is pure math. The grand list is valued by appraisal and the budget is approved. The BOF has the responsibility to verify the calculation for accuracy before taxes are levied. However the process for setting the mill rate includes a vote and each person is entitled to a vote.
John Moise May 18, 2012 at 03:33 PM
John, I hope you are enjoying England. Your premise is flawed in many ways but I will go back to my original statement if Sandy and Tony voted no on the budget they why should they vote yes on the mill increase that is a direct result of the budget. If the mill is just mathematical then why is there a vote? When you get back to town you and the three others will be able to vote on the mill as you voted on the budget.
John Leary May 18, 2012 at 04:07 PM
John – Thanks, The trip is long hours and lots of work. --- The process includes a vote and all members are entitled to and expected to vote. The vote on the budget revenue and expense is over. BOF voted and passed it to Town Council who made a modification and approved it. So the budget is done. The pending vote of the BOF is how to fund not what to fund. We cannot change the valuation of the grand list. We cannot change the budget. We should not protest the budget, it’s too late. So we vote on how to fund the budget. So the options are to; 1) fund it with tax revenue; 2) use the reserves or 3) a combination of both. So if a member disagrees with the budget then verbally separate the two items. Tell the public “I do not approve of the budget and offer a business proposal on how to fund it.”
John Leary May 18, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the individual members of the BOF agreed on the budget with each other 99%. We have a $128 Million budget. I do not know everyone’s individual position, but differences discussed, at the end, were far less than 1% or $1.28 Million leaving us 99% or more in agreement with each other. We will move past this budget and take up important work in reviewing and updating policies that will govern Southington’s finances into the future.
Lucy May 19, 2012 at 03:34 PM
I don't vote none of the above, although I wish it was a category!n I simply choose not to vote for anyone who does not represent any of the principles I hold dear, which is partisan politics. This means in the last election I voted for 3 people - Mr. Pocock (BOF), Mr. Berkmoes (BofWC) & Ms. Clark (BOE)...I. may not be able to attend meetings but I am an "informed" person. Best of luck to everyone but I want to assure all of the elected and appointed officials in this town, you do not represent me, stop insulting us, it's just mathematical after all!

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